New Haven, CT, April 22, 2011 --(PR.com
)-- Chris Zane, Zane's Cycles Founder & President, Entrepreneur, Author, Mentor & Speaker recently was the guest of R.J. Julia Book Sellers in Madison, Ct at the book signing of “Reinventing the Wheel: The Science of Creating Lifetime Customers.”
At an age when most kids are playing video games, learning to drive, doing homework and squeezing in sports practice, Chris Zane had already started a business. At 12‐years-old, he was raking in a few hundred dollars a week fixing bikes. When his father suggested he could get wholesale parts cheaper with a tax identification number, he filed for one. And just four short years later, at age 16, he arranged a loan with his grandfather to buy a neighborhood bike shop. Today, Zane’s Cycles has annual revenues in excess of $15 million and an annual growth rate of almost 24 percent.
In his first book, "ReInventing the Wheel": The Science of Creating Lifetime Customers (BenBella Books; hardcover; March 1, 2011), Zane shares the business philosophy that put him on the map and took Zane’s Cycles from a small, teenage dream to a multi--‐million dollar business. The secret, Zane reveals, is extraordinary customer service and the ability to over--‐exceed customers’ expectations – with offerings including a Lifetime free service guarantee; a custom coffee bar, where cyclists can share stories of their rides over a cup of cappuccino on the house; parts under a dollar for free; full refunds with no questions asked, regardless of the age of the bike; free flat tire fixing service; and a trade‐in program for children’s bikes that have been outgrown. The result is lifetime customers, with each customer valued at $12,500 to the company. These truly revolutionary services are what gained Zane’s Cycles its fanatical following and catapulted Chris Zane into national recognition – in an American Express commercial, featuring successful entrepreneurs, and on the stage, keynoting for businesses and industries hoping to make customer service their hallmark.
“If you can shift your thinking away from merely selling and into building trust instead, even if it costs you a few bucks in profit,” writes Zane, “you’ll begin to see opportunities you never imagined once you understand what it means to ‘wow’ that customer by giving them more than they expected.”
It’s this thinking that has kept Zane’s Cycles doors open for nearly 30 years and what keeps customers returning, again and again. And since he started as a teenager, Zane has had and pleasure of selling bikes to the children and grandchildren of his original customers.
But Zane’s customer service isn’t limited to just retail customers. In 1992, Chris put his mind toward creating a new business model that would take the company to a new level and plunged into the Special Markets business – providing bikes to rewards programs run by major corporations.
If, for instance, you accumulate enough points on your American Express Card or with Marriott Hotel stays, you may redeem those points for premium products. If that product happens to be a bicycle, Zane’s Cycles supplies it. With partners including American Express, Marriott, Tropicana, General Mills and hundreds of others, Zane’s ships approximately 40,000 bikes across the country each year to customers cashing in reward points. Further, they service those customers in a way that reflects well on the company whose points paid for it – including communicating with the bike recipient to find out their intended use for the bike, their height, inseam and other measurements that ensure the bike they get will be the right fit.
In addition to serving his customers, both retail and corporate, Zane has become a responsible and involved member of the community – from sponsoring rides and community events, to providing children’s helmets at cost (of course, emblazoned with a Zane’s sticker) via the local PTAs. Zane’s Cycles routinely hands out free bike locks at the Yale University campus when school begins in the fall, and they fund scholarships for local high school students by collecting money in bubble gum machines installed around town. Further, Zane’s store is powered by solar panels and a wind turbine, and rather than ending it there, Zane provides a real--‐time internet feed – accessible in schools – which shows how generated power is put to use.
All of these efforts – from doing the right thing through excellent customer service to creating an environmentally sound building are what keeps Zane’s Cycles at the top of its industry as one of the top three largest retail bike stores in the nation. While Zane keeps his eye on the economy and mulls plans to take his single store national with more locations, he keeps in mind the practices that helped him build his childhood dream into a national presence. “My goal in writing this book,” says Zane, “is to show you, the reader, that no matter what kind of business you run, you should be in the relationship—building and experience--‐selling business, because that is how you will find the greatest success.”